How to Be Resilient when Trouble Strikes

Demi Moore

As the story unfolded of Demi Moore's divorce from Ashton Kutcher, followed by her seizures and hospitalization on January 23rd, we here at ThirdAge got to thinking about how some people are better at coping with setbacks than others. Of course we can't say for certain that the 49-year-old star's failed marriage was the cause of her collapse. Some sources say that Demi, who is now getting help in the celebrity rehab center called "Cirque Lodge," was struggling with an eating disorder and prescription drug abuse before she and Ashton split. Yet whatever the facts are, this highly publicized case is a potent reminder that adversity can push a person to fall back on old, risky habits as a means of dulling the pain.

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What would you do if your world began to fall apart? Could you stay grounded if you were hit by a bolt out of the blue? True enough, life's inevitable ups and downs have no doubt already tested you to some degree by now. Yet even if you've come through crises relatively unscathed before, we think that all of us ThirdAgers can use a little bolstering in the resilience department, especially in these uncertain times. To that end, here are strategies to help you keep from falling apart just when you need to be at your staunchest.

Admit That You've Hit a Rough Spot

An old joke, but spot on: Denial is not just a river in Egypt. The longer you stay suspended in a state of disbelief - This can't be happening to me! - the longer you'll be putting off the hard but necessary work of dealing with whatever disaster is at hand. Instead of trying to assuage the agony by doing what we now delicately call "self-medicating" (as in having more wine than usual or starting to smoke again), you're better off rolling up your figurative sleeves and getting busy handling the situation with every fiber of your being.

Get Support

However, there's no need to go it alone. Maybe you have friends and family you can count on, but even then you might do well to get involved with support groups of people who are going through exactly what you are. Whether you meet in person or chat in communities online, you'll get advice and solace from those who truly understand your emotions and the tasks at hand.

Be Well Informed

Promise yourself you'll learn everything you can about your problem so that you can consider all your options. However, don't rely solely on what Google yields. Get expert advice as well, whether from doctors or lawyers or financial advisers. If money is an issue, see if you can find pro bono help. For example, the web site www.probono.net lists "lawyers serving the public good," and www.idealist.org is a source of numerous charitable organizations serving a wide range of needs.

Take Good Care of Yourself

Now more than ever, make your health your priority. As you've surely read before, the stress of emergencies and ongoing crises can send your cortisol levels skyrocketing. That, in turn, puts you in danger of hypertension and other serious conditions. The best antidotes are still the old stand-bys: eating right, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. That's not always an easy prescription to fill when you're facing multiple demands during a tough situation, but you'll be doing yourself and everyone who needs you a favor if you treat yourself right.

One of the great advantages of being older is that we really are wiser. We've been around the block once or twice or more. We know, as Rabbi Harold Kushner famously put it, that bad things happen to good people. We also know that better times can come again. The trick is to be ready for that welcome turn of events by staying as strong as we can in mind and body and soul rather than crumbling when calamities befall us.

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